Call me a fool or call this fun, but with a ten
by ten foot, 4 mil polytarp, two 10-foot sticks, three
bolts, and a couple of nuts and fender washers, you
too can accelerate to 12 knots on figure skates if
you have a bit of smooth and hard water. Knee pads,
elbow pads, and helmet are advised. There's nothing
dull around here in winter. Next time you see an old
guy, intent, grinning and a moving on down the lake,
please excuse him if he doesn't wave back.
The polytarp was given a rough lateen/crab claw shape
to maximize the square footage of the piece that I
had purchased for about $4. US. I used a felt marker
to draw the slightly curved leech shape, made allowances
for folding over the poly edges and sewing a loose-fitting
poly sleeve for the 1" x 1-1/4" by ten foot
long clear spruce sticks. After sewing the sleeves
(using a 1966 Kenmore portable zig-zag sewing machine)
I used specific poly repair tape to cover the edges
of the folds and to cover the stitching for reinforcement.
That tape adheres much better than duct tape. With
a piece of an old spruce spar (approximately 1 - 1/4"
x 2") bolted across the sticks to keep the sail
fully open, this piece also serves as the handle and
the sheet for controlling the sail. There is no right
or wrong way to build this $7.50 US rig. Use what
you have at hand and a bit of imagination!
Sharpen your skates. By positioning the sail on the
lee side of the body and holding the cross-bar, wind
hitting the highest part of the sail will press and
gently hold the lower of the two long sticks against
your lower leg. You will begin moving and by changing
the sail position slightly in any direction you will
begin to feel the intuitive moves necessary to go
from a reach to pointing into the wind slightly. To
tack (and this was done in 25 knot wind gusts with
no problem) firmly grab the cross-bar with both hands
, one hand near each bolt where it joins the long
sticks, and lift it over your head until it is flat
(like a large letter "A," with the point
facing directly into the wind) and you can easily
manage a complete stall to control your speed. To
complete the tacking maneuver bring the whole rig
right on over your head to the other side of your
body as you spin your skates to the new direction
on the tack. There you go and you will go! A pair
of racing speed skates would give you more speed.
At the end of the afternoon, remove one of the bolts
from the cross bar and it folds for transport lashed
to the roof rack. Wahoooo!